Here’s ANOTHER example (I’ve posted two already this month) of a disabled person suddenly being thrown off Employment and Support Allowance and forced to claim Universal Credit – and left with no money while waiting weeks for the first Universal Credit payment to start.
I post this as yet more evidence that the government and DWP talk entirely fabricated tripe when they claim that sick or disabled people are/will be helped to move from disability benefits to Universal Credit.
The truth is that sick and disabled people are thrown off ESA and left to hang.
I recently spoke at length at Stockport jobcentre with Karen*, 59.
Karen had been receiving ESA, but was found fit for work at a recent work capability assessment.
Like absolutely everybody I speak to in this situation, Karen’s ESA claim was closed as soon as she was found fit for work.
This always happens. Always. There is no warning. There is no help, or even a gradual reduction of payments. The axe simply falls.
People receive a letter which tells them that they’re getting their last payment and that’s it. People who already had almost nothing are left with absolutely nothing.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard similar tales in the last couple of years.
“You just feel numb at the end of it. Got to go and see the specialist now… and they’re just saying, “you’re not scoring enough points. You’re not ill… this is my second Universal Credit meeting again now… to sign on again.”
Like absolutely everybody I speak to in this situation, too, Karen was forced to apply for Universal Credit to try and get a few quid while she went through the months-long two-part process to appeal the DWP decision to find her fit for work.
She had to apply for Universal Credit. There is no other benefit available in many areas now. Sick and disabled people who are in absolute poverty and lose their ESA are forced to apply for Universal Credit.
People have no savings to fall back on while they wait (often for weeks and months) for the results of fit-for-work mandatory reconsiderations and appeals.
Karen was left without a penny while she waited the-at-least-five-weeks for her Universal Credit payments to start.
She had to apply for an advance loan on her Universal Credit to survive. That’s what happens when people have no money.
Repayments for that loan will be deducted from her future UC payments which means that she starts Universal Credit in debt.
A few facts:
1) Leaving sick or disabled people without a bean to live on in a northern winter should be a hanging offence.
2) The gulf between the support that the DWP purports or proposes to offer and actually offers is inevitably so wide that the two actually exist on different planets.
In its recent responses to Social Security Advisory Committee recommendations on managed migration from benefits such as ESA to Universal Credit, the DWP guffed on about plans to set up a fortnight’s run-on money for ESA claimants in Karen’s exact situation – for sick or disabled people whose ESA claims have been shut and who have to wait at least five weeks for their Universal Credit claims to start (see page 4 of this pdf).
If you believe that’ll happen, you’ll believe anything.
I’d also make the point that two weeks’ run-on money is hardly the last word in generosity.
A fortnight’s money will not cover the five and more weeks and months that people must wait for their first Universal Credit. Slow handclap for that one, Amber Rudd.
3) People who struggle to use computers continue to have problems with Universal Credit – a benefit which they must apply for and manage online.
Karen said that making her Universal Credit application was difficult, because she didn’t have a smartphone, or computer skills:
“I don’t have one of those phones [a smartphone]. I can’t afford to buy a phone. Then they expect you to go in and [use computers at the jobcentre]. I’m not a computer person which makes it even more difficult…”
As readers of the aforementioned DWP report will know (see pg 10) the Social Security Advisory Committee recently recommended that the DWP consider pre-populating parts of the online Universal Credit form to smooth the application process for people in Karen’s situation.
Needless to say, the DWP said No:
“…the Department believes it will be crucial that new claims are made to Universal Credit because we need to ensure data is as accurate and as up-to-date as possible when claimants move to Universal Credit…”
4) I’m calling it: the DWP and government want to force people to make new Universal Credit claims precisely because it knows that a lot of people won’t be able to.
Let’s look at this from a “politicians who want to appease a social-security-hating electorate” point of view.
One surefire way to cut the number of people on social security rolls is to make getting social security as difficult as possible.
This is an oldie, but most certainly a goodie if presenting yourself as tough on welfare is your bag.
Let us take a moment to remember the many American politicians and tough-on-the-poor mouthpieces who’ve claimed that harsh welfare programmes work, because welfare rolls drop when such programmes are introduced.
Mention at these times was and is rarely made of the fact that people in dire need are cut loose by tough social security programmes, because social security is made a lot harder to get. Call me paranoid, etc…
Back to Karen’s story.
As I say, Karen took out an advance loan on her Universal Credit claim to pay bills leading up to Christmas.
The DWP said that it would deduct repayments for this loan from Karen’s Universal Credit money when her claim began. Karen wasn’t actually sure if her full Universal Credit claim had started, because she was getting so little money.
Karen didn’t know where she was in the system. You hear that a lot as well. People have no idea what is going on, because the bureaucracy is so torturous.
“I just don’t get it… I got an advance loan just before December… I was told that I would have to pay £40 each payment when I got my money [when her Universal Credit claim begins]. That’s like £80 a month before I get anything… I’m trying to sort it out. I don’t really know. I’m not used to it…”
To cap things off, Karen had been called to another work capability assessment, even though she was still waiting for appeal results from her latest one.
Karen was travelling all over Stockport (on buses which cost £4 a day) between doctors and specialists to gather more medical information.
Her doctor insisted that Karen wasn’t fit to work. Her doctor gave her sick notes to give to the jobcentre to excuse her from jobsearch activities.
“I’ve got a sick note from my doctor because I’m waiting for a specialist now, but I know when I go on Tuesday [to the second work capability assessment] and go through it all again and then wait for a decision that they’re going to make… then they’re going to come back again no points scored it’s just like being bounced [from one place to another].
This “system” is a pig’s ear (yep – unfair to pigs).
I’ve said it several times already this month and I’ll say it again: I’m talking to person after person – all sick or disabled – at Stockport jobcentre whose ESA claims have been shut without warning and who have been left with nothing while they try to start new claims for Universal Credit.
People are being ground out.
The DWP, meanwhile, continues to puff out fantasy reports in which it asserts that it tailors support for sick or disabled people who struggle to move from benefits such as ESA to Universal Credit:
Says the DWP:
“We are committed to providing tailored support for all claimants, including those who have restricted access to technology. Each individual’s circumstances are different and therefore their barriers to work and the support needed must be tailored to these needs,” blah blah blah (pg 14)
Can I say at this point that I just love that phrase “tailored support.”
The DWP has been bandying that phrase about – claiming to offer “tailored support” to sick and disabled benefit claimants, while doing nothing of the kind – for years.
Readers of this site will know that the phrase “tailored support,” and variations on it, has historically been trotted out by DWP when it has launched its various assaults on unemployed sick or disabled people.
For example: we heard a lot about tailored support when the DWP cut specialist Disability Employment Advisors from jobcentres (from about 2014 to 2016).
The DWP would send me (and everyone) press statements which claimed that sick and disabled people with support needs were being provided with a “tailored” work coach service in lieu of DEAs.
The DWP made such claims – even as I sat in Kilburn jobcentre with disabled people whose benefit claims were erroneously closed by advisers who had no training in sickness or disability and who freely admitted that the DWP’s claims of a tailored service were rubbish.
Paragraphs from the DWP’s latest writings on managed migration to Universal Credit look very much like a cut and paste exercise from press statements and reports that the DWP has been sending out for years.
Etc, etc. You see my point. This “system” is an absolute pile and has been for ages. It’s even more dysfunctional than Brexit. More practice, I guess.